They have come to worship him!
The World Youth Day Cross and Icon in Schoenstatt, and with them: the youth
SCHOENSTATT, mkf. They had arrived! The moment we had all been awaiting. They were here, soaked through by the cold rain and a bit tired. They had come, the hundreds of youth, bearing the WYD Cross, gathered in the Pilgrims Church. Later that night, at 11:30 pm, in the Pilgrim Church in Schoenstatt, a long line of youth formed, everyone waiting their chance to touch the Cross and Icon, to be close to Jesus and Mary. They had come to worship him...
More than fifteen-hundred people, mostly youth, were still in the warm church where the Vigil Night had just begun, a night of encounter with the symbols of World Youth Day: the Cross and Icon, Jesus and Mary. After the initial excitement, many had started to move toward the exits, but a large number were still waiting and watching, drawn to the Cross, pulled forward, toward the altar. For this was no mere wooden cross that had been travelling the world for 20 years; all present knew: "it is the Lord. (John 21:7)"
Down came the rain
Hours before, just before 6 o'clock, many members of the Schoenstatt family, especially a large delegation of Sisters, were waiting to receive the Cross and Icon at the Deutsches Eck ("German Corner", a monument to German Unity at the merging of the Rhine and Mosel River), in Koblenz. The sky had been darkening for an hour, when the clouds burst, flooding the beginning of the celebration with rain. Raincoats and umbrellas hardly kept the crowd dry. Beneath the enormous, looming statue of Emperor Wilhelm I (historically not a great fan of Catholics), a tent had been constructed. Here, the band Esperamor played on. The moderators Erika Kraus and Gerold Simon began the ceremony, saluting the youth, the October Conference delegates, the representatives of the WYD Cologne Office; and recognizing the international representatives--from the youth of Chile, Switzerland, Spain, Poland, & the Czech Republic--as well as the volunteers of the Schoenstatt Project Office for WYD (Mexicans, Brazilians, Germans, and an American). Bishop Jörg Michael Peters, Auxiliary Bishop of Trier, Dr. Eberhard Schulte_Wissermann, first Mayor of Koblenz, and Mr. Fred Pretz, mayor of the Municipality of Vallendar.
The rain just fell harder. How could spirits not be dampened, as shoes and backpacks filled with water? But then the Schoenstatt Youth of Freiburg arrived, with the long-awaited "guests": the Cross and the Marian Icon. It is heard again and again: this Cross is something special. And now, more than a thousand people sheltered under their umbrellas, youth and adults, were having this same experience for themselves. Everyone straightened up, and something moved among the people. The sky had not opened, the sun had not begun to shine. The rain kept coming down. But everything had changed. "Its worth the sacrifice!", said beaming Jean-Marie Duvoisin, who had come eight hours from Switzerland.
"We stand beneath the Cross."
Mayor Schulte-Wissermann began his speech, declaring that the hope which comes from World Youth Day is an important contribution to the new, united Europe, and that youth play an important role in forging unity and peace in the world. He said that the Cross and Icon honored the city by their stop there. The Youth of Freiburg gave testimonies, and told something of the journey of the Cross and Icon through Waldrich. With all the Schoenstatt Youth they invited everyone--majors, city employees, youth, citizens of Koblenz--the Schoenstatt, to the Original Shrine. Bishop Peters related his personal experience during the pilgrimage of the Cross in the Diocese of Trier and Fulda; many youth who had been in Fulda were now present. "We stand beneath the Cross," said the Auxiliary Bishop, mentioning the unemployed, the sick, the problems in Education, and the conflicts in Africa, the Holy Land, Iraq, and Afghanistan. "Before Christ's crucifixion, nobody knew how God would deal with mankind," said the Bishop, referencing Karl Rahner. He explained that the Cross is the definitive answer of God to all people. Beside the Cross, beside Jesus, is the answer to the search for life's meaning. Christ is beside the poor, the lonely. The Cross is the manifestation of the true love of God.
After these words, the time had come for the journey to the Original Shrine to begin. The Mayor of Vallendar, Mr. Fred Pretz, invited everyone for the boat ride five kilometers down the river, quipping: just follow the bandanas to Schoenstatt!
During the welcome ceremony the rain had slowed to a halt, as the Cross and Icon were taken to the edge of the Mosel to board the firefighter boat "Renania Palatinado". Everyoen recieved a ribbon, either red, blue, or yellow. "As we bear the Cross and Icon to Schoenstatt, we are looking toward Cologne, in the direction of WYD", went the explanation. "The colored ribbons are a sign of our pilgrimage. With them we want everyone who moves with us, who comes to the Original Shrine, to form a big 'network', tying all the ribbons onto a big net when they make a personal visit to the Shrine this weekend."
The boats left with colored lights, songs, prayers. The stillness of the cold and darkening river was broken by the cheers of the youth. "Here we come, Schoenstatt!" some shouted. Songs from previous WYDs played on loudspeakers. And then, as the boats neared Vallendar, boat sirens and horns blared the news that they had arrived! And as hard as it is to bring generations together in Germany, there they were, mingling as everyone poured off the boats. The crowd that had seemed to trickle away at the end of the reception at Deutches Eck redoubled in Vallendar. People began lighting their vigil candles with their lighters, so there was already a sea of lights when the Bishop shared the "first" light with the people nearer to the stage. The dim streetlamps of quiet Vallendar, torches, and the candles in the hands of the pilgrims provided the only light as the last traces of the sun disappeared.
Mayor Helbach (wearing a Schoenstatt bandana) and Fr. Weber, the pastor of the local church, (Sts. Marcellinus and Peter), greeted the pilgrims. This is only a little test of what is coming to Vallendar in 2005, the mayor said. He greeted the foreign youth in particular, wishing them God's blessing for these days. Then Fr. Weber said some words, telling of his joy that the WYD Cross and Icon could visit the parish community of Vallendar. Bishop Peters and Fr. Penners then invited everyone to continue the pilgrimage towards Schoenstatt. Then the procession began. Behind the flags of the many nations, the Cross and Icon moved among the people, and in the midst of youth, pilgrims, delegates, and Vallendar citizens, the Bishop and the members of the General Presidium.
In many windows little lights glowed, and people from the upper floors of homes watched, waved, and made the Sign of the Cross as the procession passed, lighted by candles and torches, at times silent, at times singing songs in German, Spanish, and English.
The pilgrims were greeted by many of the city’s faithful; some just stood in the street, a little boy made the sign of the cross, some had candles in their windows, some stood on balconies or shyly glanced through curtains. Some older sisters from House Wildburg waited for the procession, candles in their hands. The Altar Servers of Vallendar and Urbar, confirmation candidates, youth from the Society of Tiro?, students from the Marian School, and the Schoenstatt Youth all took a turn carrying the Cross and Icon.
They already are here!
All the bells were ringing when the Cross and Marian Icon arrived at the Original Shrine. Illuminated by bright lights, they stood before the memorial of Joseph Engling and the graves of our heroes, who voluntarily placed themselves beneath the cross.
Fr. Alex Diensberg, SAC, said some words of welcome, and speakers link the "Nothing without You, nothing without us" of Schoenstatt at They have come!
"Welcome home!" resonated in different languages. Two thousand people had come here. The joyful crowd was filled with surprise meetings, friendly greetings in the area, but soon all had again focused on the Cross and Icon. Then, in the moment everyone had been waiting for, the symbols were taken inside the Original Shrine, and it was clear that everyone longed to enter with them. Many people had a chance to go inside the Shrine, encounter Jesus and Mary in the crosses and pictures, take their own photo, touch the Cross, and pray. Many were on their knees.
In Rome last month, for the dedication of the Matri Ecclesia Shrine, many experienced Schoenstatt in the heart of the Church, the MTA in the Vatican, the Schoenstatt Family in the castle of the Pope. And at the moment when the symbols of World Youth Day, which all of Germany and the Church eagerly watches, there was another important experience: the Church arriving at the heart of Schoenstatt.
After a short snack break, representatives of the different Schoenstatt communities took up the Cross -- just as they have taken up the task to make this year a "Year of the Youth" -- and head toward the Pilgrim Church. There, the people had gathered and were watching a presentation tracing the travels of the Cross and Icon. Rome, Poland, Phillipnes, USA, Canada, France, UK, Switzerland... to Germany! Through Schoenstatt centers in Heiligenstadt, Dietershausen, Bamberg, Liebfrauenhoehe, Oberkirch, and now, "SIE SIND DA! (They are here!)" The Icon of Mary entered with applause, and then the Cross arrived. The youth in the middle aisle began to pass it above their heads, and the great symbol Jesus Christ, the friend of young people, the Savior of the World, crowd-surfed up to the altar of the Pilgrim Church. Together, hundreds of hands passed the Cross forward. The Cross was raised, straight up, with some difficulty, by the volunteers of the Schoenstatt WYD Project Office.
Under the star of youthful hope...
The Church in Germany lives under the star of youthful hope, they prayed. The Prayer for the Journey of the Cross and Icon was also recited in English, Spanish, Portugese, Polish, and German, alternating with sung litanies. The moderators invited everyone to remain, praying and singing to begin the Vigil Night, with the oppertunity to go to Confession, or hang out (in the "Oase Inschallah" Cafe or "Mexican Bar" in the Franz Reinisch House). Little Unity Crosses laid beside the Cross, available to take as a momento of the special night. A small reminder of the encounter with Jesus and Mary, and the special Schoenstatt way of reminding everyone "that the two who stand as one in the Father's plan of love may never be divided. (PJK, Heavenwards)"
Bishop Peters blessed the Unity Crosses, and the young people were invited forward to encounter the Cross.
They had come.
Translation: Andrew Arriaga, Austin, TX, USA
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